Our Foster to Adoption Journey
My name is Christina Meinhardt and my wife, Sara Meinhardt, and I are currently a foster parents in the City of Philadelphia.
In 2011, Sara and I decided to expand our family and in September 2012 we welcomed our son Gavin through fertility assistance. Becoming parents was our greatest joy. We had initially thought we would only ever have one child, but as we watched Gavin with other children we saw just how much love he had to share as a brother and realized how much more love we had to give as parents. Sara and I agreed that we did not want to use fertility assistance again and decided to look at adoption and foster care as options.
As Sara and I weighed these options, we attended a session on foster parenting in summer of 2015 hosted by Philadelphia Family Pride. We listened to foster and adoptive parents, former foster youth, and social services professionals speak about the needs of the children in foster care. During this session we heard about the challenges of the system and the heartbreak of saying goodbye to a child you have loved as your own. We also heard about the unimaginable reward of giving a child in need of love and security a safe home and welcoming family for as long as they would need it. Most challenging, though, we heard about the bias at times against LGBT foster parents from both licensing and CUA agencies. It was implied that while laws were in place to prevent this form of discrimination, control was with the agency social workers who may apply personal views when approving a license or deciding a placement.
After this one session, Sara and I knew we wanted to become foster parents. Even if we did not ultimately adopt, we could provide that safe loving home foster children so greatly needed. As I began the search for a licensing agency, what I heard in the session about discrimination against LGBT parents was at front of mind. Before contacting any agencies, I visited the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) website and was relieved to find a page dedicated to LGBT Friendly Adoption Agencies. It was here I found Jewish Family and Children’s Services (JFCS). JFCS was one of the few agencies in Philadelphia identified on the HRC website to have completed and assessment (and now have a Seal of Recognition) for being an LGBT friendly agency. I did not need to look any further for an agency to represent us as foster parents. By fall of 2015 we were licensed as foster parents through JFCS and received our first placement in December 2015.
In the three years we have been foster parents so far, we have had nothing but a supportive relationship with the staff at JFCS. From the very first phone call to inquire about the training to become foster parents, the team at JFCS has been welcoming. We look forward to seeing our case manager every month because she is always positive and affirming of us as foster parents. Any time we are in need of agency assistance, our case manager and her supervisors are there for us without hesitation. Over the past three years we have felt valued as foster parents for who we are as a couple and as parents to our children. Never have we experienced bias or negative treatment from the staff at JFCS due to us being LGBT parents.
As we transition to becoming adoptive parents (our first placement from December 2015 will soon be adoptive daughter), we are thankful that JFCS will continue to guide and represent us through completion of our adoption profile and finalization of the adoption. It is comforting to know that during such an important time we do not need to hide who we are or worry that someone along the way will use their personal bias to determine we are unworthy parents for our daughter. It is also heartbreaking to know that while there are thousands of children in need of great homes like ours, many potential LGBT parents are unable to open their hearts and their doors to these children due to the discrimination that remains throughout the system.